- Review Price: £135.00
I’ve reviewed a lot of low-cost digital compact cameras over the past couple of months. Some have been Very Good, some have been Very Bad, but most have been in that middle-of-the-road 7/10 zone; nothing particularly wrong with them, but just A Bit Dull. In theory today’s review camera should fall into that latter category too. It’s a 12-megapixel ultra-compact with a 5x wide-angle zoom and a 2.7-inch monitor, and sells for around £135, which makes it about as average as you can get, but for a combination of reasons the Nikon CoolPix S570 finds itself elevated into the ranks of the Very Good.
The CoolPix S570 is one of the junior models of Nikon’s impressive range of ultra-compacts, at the other end of the spectrum from the technologically advanced S640 and S630. However while it may be a budget model very few corners have been cut on design or construction. It has a strong and well finished all-aluminium body, and is available in black, red, blue, pink or the silver finish shown here. It’s a very small camera, measuring 92 x 56.5 x 21.5mm, and quite light at 137g fully loaded, although it does feel slightly heavy for its size, adding to the overall feeling of quality.
Despite its size the S570 handles extremely well. The finish has a slightly matt texture, making it easy to grip, and the rear panel control layout leaves room for a decent sized textured thumb grip at the back. The controls themselves are quite large and mostly well labelled, although the black-on-black etched symbols on the D-pad are a bit hard to see in dim light. The S570 is designed to be easy to use, and the controls and menus are very simple. The zoom control is a rotary bezel around the shutter button, and it is a bit jerky, but with 12 steps between minimum and maximum it’s capable of fairly precise framing. The overall impression of using the camera is very good; it feels responsive, capable and easy to get along with.
The monitor screen is a 230k 2.7-inch TFT unit. It’s nice and bright, and its anti-reflective surface means it works well in sunlight, but it does have a somewhat restricted viewing angle of about 60 degrees in all directions, which can be a bit annoying if you’re holding the camera above your head to shoot over a crowd, or trying to show pictures to more than one person at once.
The S570 has only the most basic range of features, but it is very easy to use. It has only four shooting modes; Full auto, Scene mode with 16 scene programs and Auto Scene Selection, Smart Portrait mode with enhanced skin tones, blink warning and smile timer, and the video recording mode. Video recording is limited to 640 x 480 resolution at 30fps with mono audio, with a maximum clip length of 25 minutes if you have a big enough card. As with most low-cost cameras the optical zoom cannot be used while recording.
The S570 does have some useful automatic functions that are transparent to the user, such as automatic red-eye correction. It doesn’t have any mechanical image stabilisation, but it does have Electronic VR (digital image stabilisation). This is reasonably effective, but it does have an impact on image quality. It’s a technology better suited to video recording than stills. It also has a 3200 ISO maximum sensitivity and a blur detection function which alerts you if the shot you just took wasn’t sharp.
The main menu has barely two pages, with only six options including image size, white balance, drive mode, ISO setting and AF area. There is no spot metering, and creative control is limited to a short list of colour options. Exposure compensation, flash mode, macro mode and the self timer are found as button functions on the D-pad. Despite its comparative lack of features, what little the S570 does offer is well implemented and works well. The menu is also shooting-priority; a tap of the shutter button returns the camera to shooting mode.
There are a number of useful features in playback mode including automatic Quick Retouch, D-lighting and skin softening. These are all easy to use with one-click operation, and produce quite good results.
While the S570 may be missing a few useful options it lacks nothing in performance. It starts up very quickly in about one and a half seconds, and in single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 2.1 seconds, which is pretty quick for a cheap camera. In continuous shooting mode it is even faster, shooting a frame every 1.1 seconds, although it has no audio cue to let you know when it’s taking a picture.
The autofocus system isn’t particularly fast, especially when compared to some of Nikon’s more expensive compacts, but it’s not embarrassingly slow and it is at least reliable. It also works well in low light, with a good AF assist lamp with a range of about three metres. The built-in flash is very good, with a useful range of about five metres and a recharge time of just over seven seconds from a full-power flash. It is well metered for closer ranges too.
For a low-cost compact the image quality is surprisingly good, with excellent colour reproduction, accurate exposure and sharp focusing. The lens is much better than expected, producing almost no wide angle distortion and acceptably good edge-to-edge sharpness with no chromatic aberration.
At the lowest ISO setting the image quality is very good indeed, with smooth colour gradients and plenty of sharp detail. Noise reduction does remove some fine detail at 400 ISO, getting progressively worse at 800 and 1600 ISO, but colour and exposure remains consistent at these settings. It’s only at the maximum 3200 ISO that things really go to pieces.
Although the Nikon CoolPix S570 has a fairly average specification and lacks a number of useful and popular features, it is very well made, easy and fun to use, and handles extremely well. It has above average performance, works well in low light, and the image quality is also better than most others in its class. All in all, the S570 is excellent value for money.
”Over the next few pages we show a range of test shots. On this page the full size image at the minimum and maximum ISO settings have been reduced to let you see the full image, and a series of full resolution crops have taken from original images at a range of ISO settings to show the overall image quality. These pictures were taken indoors using shaded natural light. ”
This is the full frame at 80 ISO.
At minimum sensitivity the image quality is excellent, with nice smooth colours.
Still very good at 100 ISO.
No problems at 200 ISO.
Noise reduction has scrubbed out some detail at 400 ISO but colour rendition is stiill very good.
Slightly less detail still at 800 ISO.
Progressively less detail at 1600, but colour and exposure are still good.
Image quality is looking a bit ropey by 3200 ISO, and even on a small print this wouldn’t look good.
This is the full frame at 3200 ISO.
”A range of general test shots are shown over the next two pages. In some cases, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it to show the overall image quality. Some other pictures may be clicked to view the original full-size image. ”
Here’s the usual detail test shot of the West Window of Exeter Cathedral, for you to compare with other cameras. See below for a full res crop, or click to see the whole picture. The downloadable file is approximately 5MB.
The overall level of detail is very good, although the lens could be a bit sharper.
Very little barrel distortion at the 28mm wide end.
Again, centre sharpness could be better, but I’ve seen worse.
Corner sharpness too is reasonably good, with no chromatic aberration.
”’Here are some general test shots to help evaluate the camera’s overall image quality, including dynamic range, colour rendition and the zoom range of the lens. Some pictures may be clicked to download the full size original image. ”
The wide-angle end of the zoom is equivalent to 28mm.
The telephoto end is equivalent to 140mm.
The limited dynamic range of the 12MP sensor has clipped the highlights, but shadow detail is pretty good.
With D-Lighting applied in playback mode the shadows are brightened, but even more highlight has been blown out.
Colour reproduction is very natural.
The S570 is great for general snapshots.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Build Quality 9
|Camera type||Digital Compact|
|Megapixels (Megapixel)||12 Megapixel|
|Optical Zoom (Times)||5x|
|LCD Monitor||2.7 in|
|Flash modes||Auto Flash, Flash OFF, Flash ON, Red-eye Reduction|
|Video (max res/format)||640 x 480|
|Memory card slot||Secure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card|
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